Geologic City

New Yorkers co-exist intimately with the traces of powerful geo forces. Apartments made of red sandstone from the Triassic (245-208 million years ago) both shelter us and populate our visual space. Rockefeller Center elevates and displays limestone from the Mississippian Period. The iron of the Manhattan Bridge stands as a message from Pre-Cambrian times.

Geologic City: a field guide to the GeoArchitecture of New York will visualize the reality that modern life and geologic time are deeply intertwined. With the field guide in hand, residents and visitors will be able to interact with familiar, even iconic New York architecture and infrastructure in an unexpected way: by sensing for themselves the forces of deep time that give form and materiality to the built environment of the City.

During 2010-11, we will research geologic materials of New York’s architecture and infrastructure and design the printed field guide and a supporting website. The project will illustrate several themes: geologic time is neither inert nor inaccessible; geologic time has composed—and continues to compose—the materials that make New York City; through design, humans enculturate those materials as the city’s architecture and infrastructure.

The City’s architecture and infrastructure depends upon extractions of geologic materials that took millennia to form. Yet, we have virtually no cultural awareness of this reality. Some people argue that this is because humans are cognitively incapable of imagining deep time. We disagree. With this field guide to New York’s geoarchitecture, we offer a speculative tool that humans can use to project their imaginations into deep time as they move through the City. We believe that as works made in response to geologic time become more common, human capacities to design, imagine, and live in relation to deep time will expand.

Geologic City is funded in part by a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, Architecture Planning & Design Program, 2011.

Geologic City: a field guide to the GeoArchitecture of New York is a project of Friends of the Pleistocene (FOP). An illustrated project description can be viewed here.

Project updatese will be posted at

For more information contact: Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth at